Failure - a winter's tale

Americans and their New Year's Resolutions: as the world grows a year older it's always a good time to change those natural faults that make us human - but it's always a lost cause.

One of America's finest traditions is the New Year's Resolution. Millions decide to resolve their personal problems with the NYR, and every year most of them fail. The idea is great: assess your life, contemplate what you want to modify during the next twelve months, and then commit yourself to changing it. But let's face it: the truth about NYR's is that they don't really work. Why? Because most resolutions are essentially fancy-sounding "shoulds." Good intentions by themselves are signs of willingness to change, but unfortunately intentions, even good ones, are just intentions, and you know what they say: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

It's mighty hard not to get the resolution urge on New Year's. It's contagious. Of course there is that sense of renewal, of rebirth, and the guilty awareness that you ate your own weight in chocolate during the holidays, you smoke like a chimney, and all the exercise you get is your walk from the couch to the refrigerator. Sure, last year's resolutions didn't make it past the middle of January, but hey, this year's going to be different. Yeah, right! Why, then, do so many people give an affirmative answer to the question: "Have you broken your New Year's Resolution yet?" The less ambitious resolutions stand firm for a few weeks, then the rest of the year only the memory of them returns to haunt you and make you feel guilty and weak.

NYR's are perhaps just meaningless expressions of hope without a game-plan - save money, be happier, get in shape, watch less TV etc. - which are just a bit of fun and never intended to be serious. But where did this whole craze originate? Babylon, in fact, around 4,000 BC. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonians' most popular resolution, however, was to return borrowed farm equipment. The Babylonians used to celebrate New Year's Day in March rather than in January to coincide with the spring planting of crops. So that's some consolation - if you really have to break your resolution, if you have a false start, you can start again in March, la Babylonian.

The New Year, no matter when people have celebrated it, has always been a time for looking back at what has been, and more importantly, looking ahead to the coming year. It's a time to reflect on the changes we want, or often need, if we are to have the motivation to move forward. Resolutions reflect the Babylonians' belief that what a person does on the first day of the New Year will have an effect throughout the entire year. It can be a scary thought if it happens to pop into your head at a New Year's party, though. Maybe you should reconsider your midnight activity carefully...

But let's get back to the Americans. The vast majority of them make NYR's. Take quittingsmoking, for example, one of the top resolutions, right up there with losing weight, taking up exercising and relaxing more. A great number of people attempt to quit this harmful habit around the New Year, and for all of them withdrawalsymptomspeak approximately one month after quitting. It so happens that cigarette companies and advertisers have noted this phenomenon and, in an attempt to capitalize on this and make it harder for quitters, have increased the number of ads in January and February. How cruel, to exploit humanfrailties.

A lot has been said and written about NYR's, and you can find numerous guides, self-help brochures and the like that discuss the steps you need to take to succeed so that the commitments you undertake last longer than a week. But the very fact that all of these publications even exist is proof that NYR's don't work. The beginning of a New Year is just that, a new year, one that will make us older, maybe smarter (although this one is questionable), but definitely not ready to change our old ways. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. But maybe next year, though...

Ten fragile resolutions:

Ten fragile resolutions:

Get in shape (ovular or pear-shaped, perhaps?) Save money (what money after all the Christmas shopping) Quit smoking (only easy if you never smoked to begin with) Increase productivity (eat more fiber?) Lose weight (wear lighter shirts and weigh myself in the nude) Get more sleep (which was working fine until my professor kicked me out for snoring during a lecture...) Be more creative (err...) Get a life (no one volunteered to give me theirs so it's not my fault this one fell through...) Eat better (gained ten pounds - resolution no.5 went bye bye...) Get organized (too unorganized to get around to this one before the end of next year...)

- Katarzyna Jelonek-Allen


(to) assess - take a look at, consider, evaluate (ocenić, podsumować)
- (here:) desire, impulse, drive (pęd, impuls)
- (here, figurative:) catching, infectious (zaraźliwy)
(to) haunt
- torment (one's conscience), trouble the mind; what a ghost does! (prześladować, nie dawać spokoju)
- encouragement, comfort (pociecha)
(to) pop into your head
- (idiom:) suddenly appear in your mind (przyjść nagle do głowy)
(to) quit
- give up (porzucić)
withdrawal symptom
- physical and psychological pain felt when sb gives up sth, usually addictive (przykre objawy po rzuceniu nałogu)
(to) peak
- be at its height, climax (osiagnąć szczyt)
- weakness (słabość)
- easily broken, breakable (kruchy, podatny na złamanie)